English panels share practical advice: UMKC faculty discuss graduate school applications, conferences and professional publication
A panel discussion organized by the Undergraduate English Council (UEC) and English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) on Nov. 8 focused on developing graduate school applications and publishing professional work. .
The panel discussion hosted by UEC featured UMKC professors Drs. Jane Greer, Michelle Boisseau and Thomas Stroik, and Interdisciplinary Ph.D. student Craig Workman.
Advice focused on graduate English programs, but certain advice could apply to any student interested in an advanced degree.
“Don’t just [apply to grad school because] you don’t know what you’re going to do next year,” Stroik said.
He advised students to take the necessary time to complete an application process that each of the professors said can be tedious.
“Your statement of purpose should be a sophisticated understanding of the field and where you fit,” Stroik said. “This is an opportunity to make someone interested in you.”
Boisseau said it is important to be conscious of deadlines so professors have enough time to write effective letters of recommendation.
She provided a checklist she requires from students asking for letters: a list of courses taken with her, a list of prospective schools, the writing sample and the statement of purpose.
“You need a red-hot letter,” Stroik said.
The panel also stressed taking advantage of opportunities to become involved in organizations within a student’s field of study.
The panel also stressed the importance of talking to current graduate students.
“Ask the one person you’re going to trust the most to help you,” Stroik said. “Professors have coattails. They can advise you on who else you should ask for letters.”
Greer admitted the job market for higher education degrees in the humanities is grim, but pointed out the success that can stem from experience.
“The rest of your life is a long time,” Boisseau said, telling students not to base graduate school decisions on the length of the program. “Don’t forget the joy.”
Workman cautioned against procrastinating on an application.
“Don’t rely on your own genius that you’re going to get accepted because you’re you,” he said.
Dr. John Barton gave additional insight, suggesting students not apply to the top 10 schools in the country.
“Have three dream schools, three hopefuls and three most likelies,” he said.
The panel hosted by EGSA focused on presenting at conferences and submitting work for publication in professional journals.
It included Drs. Jennifer Frangos, Jennifer Phegley, Michael Pritchett, Hadara Bar-Nadav and Laurie Ellinghausen.
Ellinghausen asked students what they thought was the biggest motive to attend conferences.
Many answered said conferences are a good opportunity for academic learning, but Ellinghausen suggested that the real benefit is personal development.
“Conferences allow you to find a good context for your work,” she said.
Ellinghausen also advised students to take advantage of free, convenient presentation opportunities. Experimenting with different conference venues could be time consuming and expensive.
“Know what the key conferences are in your field,” she said. “Look for conferences that don’t follow the traditional format as well.”
The traditional format is presentation style, which contrasts with the seminar style, a more unconventional and critical approach that allows participants to engage in conversations about each other’s work.
Ellinghausen advised that one should continue to attend the conferences they find beneficial and to stay in touch with other attendees.
Phegley advised students to join newsletter mailing lists in order to stay informed about opportunities to submit scholarly papers for upcoming conferences.
“Think about what you’re already doing and how you can work your piece to fit into that conference’s theme,” she said. “Do not go over the word limit on proposals, use language from the call for papers so the recipients know you understand.”
Pritchett and Bar-Nadav contrasted submitting scholarly papers and creative writing pieces and advised students to also participate in retreats and residencies along with conferences.
“Conferences can be overwhelming and disheartening,” Bar-Nadav said. “Going with people you know can help.”
Bar-Nadav said students should familiarize themselves with journals, especially those in which favored authors are getting published.
The panel members stressed the importance of working with faculty during the submissions process. They explained that responses for journal submissions range from nasty to extensively critical and helpful.
“Even a response but not an acceptance should be considered a win,” Dr. Ellinghausen said. Frangos said that students should constantly be either writing, revising or submitting.
“Getting an A on a paper from the hardest grader in the department doesn’t mean take it straight to publishing,” she said.
UEC and EGSA will host a symposium in spring 2013. A call for papers opens near the closing of winter break. All genres and disciplines are welcome to submit papers.